Lectures start today. That’s right, at nearly fifty, I’m going back to school. Maynooth University, to be precise, for a BA in Irish Medieval and Celtic Studies, History and English. I must be mad.

First up, it’s Celtic Civilisations at 11am, followed by English Prose and Fiction at 12pm, and finally History; Vikings and Normans at 1pm. If you know me at all, I think you’ll guess that I’m as happy as a muc in muck! That’s ‘pig’ in mud, for the non-Irish among you! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜œ

After my interview back in May, I walked out the door straight into this…

… and my heart started to flutter; I was falling in love, and knew instantly how much I really wanted to study there.

The university is split into two campuses; north and south. South side is the old part, north is more modern, and where I will probably spend most of my study time. On Thursdays, however, I will have five hours of free time spread between three lectures, and some of that I will use to explore; the south campus has an old church, a museum, and Maynooth Castle stands guard at the entrance. Also, there are rumours of mysterious tunnels beneath the old buildings…

It also boasts the oldest yew tree in Ireland standing in its grounds; it’s said to be 700 years old, and I can well believe it. I mean, just look at it! Yes, something else which I think you will realise makes me very happy. I think this university and me were made for each other. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Of course, being such an old institution, Maynooth University has its own set of resident ghosts. Room 2, located in a building called Rhetoric House (now the History building), is where two students in C19th, took their lives 19 years apart from each other. It’s claimed that a ‘diabolical presence’ made itself known to them, and caused them to jump out of the window to their deaths in terror.ย ย Dark stains on the floor of Room 2 are said to be human blood (allegedly confirmed by the collegeโ€™s chemistry department) which canโ€™t be removed or covered up. Creepy, huh?

In 1860, as a result of all this, Room 2 was converted into an oratory of St Joseph, and the window sealed. The room has since become a waiting area between offices.

Maynooth actually means ‘Nuada’s Plain’ in Irish, and if you have read any of my books or early blog posts, then you will understand why this thrills me; Nuada was the King of the Tuatha de Danann, and it was he who was responsible for leading the Danann into Ireland.

Nuada lost his sword arm in the First Battle of Moytura against the Fir Bolg, who ruled at the time. It was cut from his body in single combat with Sreng, the enemy’s champion. Nuada was carried from the battle ground and tended by his skilled physicians, Dian-Cecht and his son Miach, a surgeon, and daughter Airmid, a herbalist.

He survived, and the next day when Sreng saw him, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He challenged Nuada to another armed combat, and cunningly, Nuada agreed, on the condition that Sreng tie his sword arm behind his back and fight with only his left hand. Sreng refused, and relinquished power to the Danann.

Unfortunately, though, despite how well-loved Nuada was as a King, he was unable to continue in that role, as the King was required to be whole and unblemished if the land and the people were to prosper.

Nuada and his Sword of Light
Nuada and his Sword of Light

In the years to come, as Nuada healed, Dian-Cecht worked with Creidne, one of the Danann’s leading craftsmen, and fashioned a fully functioning ย ‘arm of silver’ for Nuada. Perhaps this was the world’s first bionic arm, or at least a prosthetic one, created over four thousand years ago.

Miach somehow managed to grow skin and blood over it, and thus in due course, when Bres was deposed for being a bad King, Nuada, now considered whole again, was elected as High King. He ruled for another twenty years, until his death at the hands of Balor in the Second Battle of Moytura.

Nuada also carried the Sword of Light, known in Irish asย Cliamhย Solais in Irish (pronounced Klee-uv Shull-ish), and is considered to be one of theย  lost Four Treasures of Eirean. It was made in the northern city of Findias (or Gorias, depending on which version you read) by a powerful fรญlรญ and magician named Uiscas.

Undoubtedly, the High King’s great sword came to have symbolic meaning for the people; it represented strength, power, unity, physical prowess and identity. But what did its title mean? Did it refer to the illumination of knowledge, justice, truth? Or was it something more obvious, like a laser, for example, or a flame thrower. You can find out more about this magical, mystical sword in my post The Sword of Light.

Reading about Nuada all those years ago began my fascination with Irish mythology. I never thought then that he would spark the idea for a book series, a blog, and all the other things which have grown from it; storytelling, tour guiding, vlogging (my newest venture that I’m working on, coming soon!), even the Bloggers Bash, which I would never have been a part of if I hadn’t met Sacha through blogging.

uni9

The coincidence is not lost on me; going to Maynooth to learn more about ancient Ireland and its mythology kind of feels like a full circle has been completed. Well, almost. And it’s fitting that it should take place here, where Nuada’s legacy remains.


Ps. I spotted a whole row of beautiful mature rowan trees nearby, so I’ll get some pictures this week and post them on Instagram, for those who love them as much as I do. ๐Ÿ˜Š


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57 thoughts on “Maynooth | Plain of Nuada and Seat of Learning

  1. Bloody loved this post. I did not know that was where the uni got its name from, but how apt!!!!!! Even more reason to study there, almost like it was made for you! Love the tree too, and the building, god damn, I hope I get to see that one day. Most beautiful place to study EVER <ยฃ

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  2. Ali, it is so cool that you are going back to school ~ and doing so in style. A BA in Irish Medieval and Celtic Studies, History and English, what an inspiration to pursue a passion as you do. This is going to be perfect for you ~ creating more balance (even while stretching your time even more!).

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  3. Best wishes for your new adventure. Going back to school with all your other responsibilities is a huge challenge. Good for you. Maynooth looks like a perfect fit for you, too! I will be watching for updates and undoubtedly there will be some interesting stories to come out of your explorations. Good luck.

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  4. My goodness! Ghosts, secret tunnels, blood stained floors…you’ve landed yourself in the right place, Ali. No wonder you were drawn to it. I can’t image the stories that come out of this place. Kind of Hogwarts looking. The very best of luck with the studies.

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  5. Congrats Ali! Bonne chance! Sure you will learn as much, if not more, out of class, as in. Re the prosthetic arm and sword of light – I may be mistaken, but I suspect the idea was stolen for a character, in a certain saga, in a galaxy far, far away, and his light saber!

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  6. Be careful of that English Prose and fiction watch you don’t become anglisized , you have such a nice style. Mind you the two countries are inextricably linked. That man of God Cromwell reeked havoc in Ireland . What a building ! the old part of Maynooth.

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    1. It is lovely. One of my lectures today was on the old campus, so that made me happy. ๐Ÿ˜Š As for being anglicised, I was born there and spent much of my life there, so I guess that already happened. But it was only when I came to Ireland 15 years ago, having never before been here, that I felt I came home. English is quite broad, too… it covers literature from all over the world that has been written in the English language, which makes it so interesting, including Irish writers! Yaaaay!

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  7. Best of luck today, Ali – I hope it’s going really well! And what a wonderful, beautiful place to study – I’m just thrilled for you. I bet there are stories just coming out of the walls there, it looks just magical. Looking forward to hearing more about your on-campus adventures ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

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        1. Today was just an introduction to each module, really. But already some of the popularly believed theories have been blown out of the water, which pleased me no end, as it confirmed some thoughts I’ve been having for a while. ๐Ÿ˜

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    1. Thanks Kate! Yeah my sister did her degree with the OU but it took her 7 years, or something lime that, to complete. I would have gone that route too, if I had been able to do the courses I’ve chosen, but OU don’t offer Irish Celtic and Medieval studies, and now I’m so glad! ๐Ÿ˜

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  8. Ok so most important, what are you doing for freshers week? Booze and barnstorming I hope. You have a national stereotype to love up to! The place looks fabulous and, as is so often the case, wasted on the young. Still that doesn’t apply to you… Oops did I say that?! I’ll bet your brain is fizzing with the stimulus you’ll get. Gooooo girrrrrllll

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    1. Hahaha! Trust you to say it like it is. Still, I had to try really hard not To laugh when some young lad representing the Students Union told me all about Sexual Health Week coming up (pardon the pun!) And did I want a free STI examination? I was also referred to as the 40 year old in the room, which was quite a compliment, considering Im just hitting 50! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜„

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  9. Best of luck with your course, I am sure it will go swimmingly.

    As for the Silver Arm, I wonder if it is based on either a prosthetic arm or supportive structure. Prosthetics have been around for millennia (they have been found in Egyptian mummies). However the legend of the loss of the arm then its recovery would fit a damaged and supportive structure. If the nerves are damaged, which need only take a tiny wound, then the hand and lower arm can become useless, flopping around with no control. Given support the arm and hand can be of some use until the nerves regenerated, and then the hand will be as strong as ever. This happened to me after an operation on my upper arm and my hand was useless for just over a year.

    if you care for a real warrior with a prosthetic then there is a legend associated with one Anglo-Saxon king. He lost a hand in combat and was fitted with a metal one, in battle he punched a Viking leader in the face and killed him, even though the Viking was wearing a helmet. After that he received the nickname Iron Hand.

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    1. Hahaha! That’s a wonderful story, Gordon! Yes, I like that. As for the nerve damage healing, I had never considered that, and you have first hand experience (painful pun, sorry!) of that, wow! Amazing! I think what I like about Nuadas story, is that his prosthetic was silver and fully functioning… sounds like a robotic device to me. And later it was obviously replaced with a more sophisticated version that looked more like a real arm. Just stories, but fascinating anyway.

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  10. Many congrats Alison, for getting back to academia by way of being admitted to MU. As one of your friend’s suggestion here, more than merely graduating out in 2019, you must go on to become part if the faculty in MU. May the beautifully landscaped campus with its age old yew tree inspire and bring out the best in you. Cheers…

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    1. Thank you, Raj! I hope it does. I suspect that after 3 years I will be even more aware of how little I actually know, even though it will be more than I know now. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜…

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  11. I think you’re getting mixed up, Ali. I’m sure the university would want you to be a lecturer, not a student ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve never heard of vlogging but now that I’ve looked it up, I look forward to seeing your videos.A lot harder for you (you can’t go out at 2am and make a vlog, whereas you can do that to write a blog) but really good for those who follow your stories.

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    1. Thanks, Colin! Yes, you are right… more planning is definitely required, and I will be starting small. But I think for people who dont live in Ireland, seeing the old places in a film, even my unprofessional ones, brings them that little bit closer, more than a photo maybe. I’m hoping so, anyway. ๐Ÿ˜

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  12. I wonder whether Nuada was buried with the sword of light. Maybe one day a cairn will be opened and there it will lie with the bones of Nuada who can be reburied as befits a High King of Ireland.
    I have a feeling you’re going to Ace this course Ali. Enjoy every minute.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

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